Renting in Germany is very different to other parts of the world and it’s important when it comes time to negotiate your rent and contract that you understand the important issues to clarify.

The Process

Renting in Berlin is very competitive and it is not uncommon to be one of 20 people viewing a property. Given the demand on housing, the ability for negotiation on rent and contract isn’t always possible, however talking with the agent will help you assess whether the landlord is willing to make any allowances or alterations to the terms.

If you are interested in applying for a tenancy, you will need to complete the application form. This can be done on the day, if you choose to come armed with everything required, however it is more common to take the form with you and email, post or fax it back to the agent.

The agent and/or landlords will normally ask for the following information to be provided with your application form:

  • Has the tenant ever been declared bankrupt?
  • A copy of the Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung is normally required (credit rating certificate). This can be obtained from the landlord or with the assistance of the agent.
  • Details on employment: employer’s address, salary and duration of employment
  • Details of financial means (bank statements or pay slips)

By completing the application form, this does not bind you to the property nor does it mean that you are going to get it (should you be the first to apply). The laws in Germany are very much on the side of the renter and as such landlords are very particular about the tenants they elect – in many cases, they are happy to let a property stay vacant for long periods of time, to ensure they get the ‘right’ tenant in their property. As a result, it is not uncommon to wait up to 3 weeks to get an answer.

Real estate agents will usually required a fee for their service; there is no market standard for this and fees with the agents are negotiable.

The Rental Agreement

When you are looking for your new home, you should first ask the landlord or agent if the advertised rent is warm or cold (warm or kalt).

  1. Cold rent represents the apartment / building rental
  2. Warm rent represents the cold rent plus all the extras, such as building maintenance and cleaning, heating, water, garbage disposal, cable etc. These extras are your “nebenkosten”.

Nebenkostens will vary greatly from contract to contract, so be sure you fully understand the landlord’s responsibilities and what you will need to arrange in addition.

Electricity, gas and the telephone are normally separate, however in some cases, especially in a furnished apartment, these are included in your warm rent. For an easy transaction, if the previous tenant is still in the apartment they can sign over the account for you – however if the place is vacant, you will need to open one directly with the supplier.

There are a few different types of rental agreements. These are:

  • Unbefristeter Mietvertrag – for an unlimited duration
  • Befristeter Mietvertrag, also called Zeitmietvertrag – for a limited duration
  • Untermietvertrag – for a sublet agreement

Templates of these contracts can be downloaded here:

http://www.static-immobilienscout24.de/MungoBlobs/35/397/vertrag_unbefristet.doc (Unbefristeter Mietvertrag)

http://www.immobilienscout24.de/de/download/umziehen/befristeter_mietvertrag1.doc (Befristeter Mietvertra)

http://www.static-immobilienscout24.de/MungoBlobs/980/436/vertrag_untermiete.doc (Untermietvertrag)

The rental contract covers the following:

  • Length of rental agreement (in the case of a time-limited contract)
  • Amount of rent payable, schedule of payments and of increases
  • Details of what the rent includes and excludes
  • Inventory – what’s in the house when it was handed over
  • Deposit required and details of any interest it will earn
  • Requirements for redecoration
  • Insurance requirements
  • Rights and obligations of the tenant and landlord (notice period, pets)

As well as the signed lease, tenants will receive an Übergabeprotokoll. This document will state the condition of the accommodation when the tenant moves in. It needs to be filled out in detail – nothing is too minor to include. This is your protection against prior damages when you terminate your lease. An example of one is here: http://www.inpopro.de/mietvertrag/wohnungsuebergabeprotokoll.pdf

Rental Prices

Rental prices will vary depending on the area and whether the property is a new building or an older building. Generally speaking, the following is an indication of what you will pay per square meter in cold rent.

Altbau (older building) – €3.08 – €5.38 per sqm

Neubau (new building) – €4.55 – €7.46 per sqm

Deposit

The deposit (Kaution) tends to be high. The law allows landlords to ask for up to three months’ rent. Some landlords will request the kaution prior to signing the lease, while others will allow you to pay this over a fixed period of time (usually the first 3 months). At the end of your tenancy, the landlord is required to pay back the deposit as well as any interest earned on the deposit. However, the landlord may retain part of the deposit as necessary to repair any damage to the property caused by the tenant – this is why you need to be detailed in your Übergabeprotokoll.

Terminating the agreement

For most rental agreements, you will be required to give three months notice – as is the landlord should he wish to terminate the contract. This period of notice increases depending your length of occupancy.

  • 5yrs – 6 months
  • 8yrs – 9 months
  • 10yrs – 12months

This clause in your contract can be negotiated prior to signing.

You are also entitled to give shorter notice if:

  1. The landlord increases your rent;
  2. Makes refurbishment plans that will lead to higher rent payments;
  3. If the landlord agrees to an nachmieter (next tenant) situation, where you pay for the advertising and find a suitable replacement.

The landlord can end an agreement only under the following circumstances:

Without notice:

  • If the property is used consistently for non-agreed purposes;
  • If the rent is unpaid for two months;
  • If the tenant is consistently noisy and disturbing the neighbours.

With notice:

  • If the tenant has broken the conditions of the lease on numerous occasions;
  • If the property is to be used by the landlord or a relative;
  • If the landlord intends to modify the property in a major way;
  • If the landlord is trying to sell the property and it being rented is hindering or causing them to suffer economically.

Moving out

Once it’s time to move out, you must paint all the walls flat white, fill in any dings and holes, remove floor coverings (that weren’t pre-existing) and all additional fixtures you may have added. Once the landlord has approved the condition of the apartment, then your kaution will be released via direct transfer into your bank account.

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